How I stay fit with back pain

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I get it, keeping in shape is not always easy to do.  People live hectic lives, with jobs, family commitments and whatever else happens to be going on.  In my case, you can add in back problems as one more challenge that could keep me on the sidelines. In this post, I want to talk about ways that I stay fit specifically when dealing with back pain.

My history of back pain

My back problems started in 1999 when I was an active 26 year old.  I had never dealt with any significant injuries or pain in my life, so this was all new to me. I ended up having back surgery in the fall of 1999, and I wish I had not gone through with that.

Even after having surgery, I have still had sciatic nerve pain over the years.  The pain I have experienced is probably the result of not changing or altering my lifestyle as a back pained person.  I kept on doing all the activities I loved even if that was wreaking havoc on my back. But I learn best one way, and that is the hard way.

It has just been the past few years that I have started to understand how to stay fit with back pain.  It’s not always easy, let me tell you.  There is the mental part of it where I just don’t want to work out, but I know I really need to. Or the thoughts of re-injuring myself creep in. I have to work hard to keep those thoughts out of my head.

Then there is the physical side of things, where sometimes I tend to push too hard and feel pain rushing down my right leg. This is my sciatic nerve letting me know that it is not happy.

With that said, let’s get into the things I do to keep my body in shape.

Simple exercises you can do with back pain


If you are a frequent reader of my blog, you probably know that I am a big fan of walking.  I get out for walks several times per day.  My walking regimen includes a mid-morning walk at work, possibly a walk during lunch and then an evening walk with my wife.

During the summer months, it’s tough to get out for a lunchtime walk at work, because it is so hot and I don’t want to be the sweaty, stinky guy when I get back to work.  Check out my other posts about walking, here and here.


One of my favorite exercise machines on the planet.  Elliptical machines give you a low impact way to get some cardio in and focus on core muscles.  I love the fact that you can squat down and focus on the glutes, or you can use the handgrips to engage your upper body as well.

I always start my workouts with about 15 minutes on an elliptical to get my juices and the sweat flowing!


Another one of my go-to exercises is pushups.  I did 60,000 pushups in 2018.  Pushups are an easy thing to do when you are in a pinch for time.  Simply drop and do some pushups just about anywhere you are.

With pushups, I can vary my stance to challenge myself in different ways.  There are many different ways to do pushups including:

  • Standard Grip
  • Wide Grip
  • Incline
  • One-legged
  • Spiderman

You can also do modified pushups on your knees if you are just getting started. Pushups are a great bodyweight exercise that I love to do.


After I injured myself in 2015, I struggled with planks.  Planks are challenging and starting slowly is a good idea if you have not done them before.  These are a great alternative to traditional situps or crunches, which I have found painful to do.

You can add variation to planks as well, including:

  • Side Planks
  • Forearm planks
  • Single arm plank
  • Walking planks
  • Plank rollout (advanced using a Bosu ball)

Again, there are modifications that you can make, which makes this exercise very versatile.

Eating healthy

Last, but certainly not least, is a good solid diet.  What you eat is extremely important to stay in shape.  I used to be the guy who ate whatever I felt like, only to think I would “burn it off” at the gym.  Well, I can tell you that didn’t work.

A solid diet is critical if you want to take care of your body.  Now that doesn’t mean you can’t ever cheat, and I would recommend that occasionally. Overall, eating well is essential to staying in shape.


Well, that’s all I have for today.  I just wanted to share some tips on exercises that I perform to help me stay in shape, even with back problems.  Exercise and eating right are critical components to staying fit, whether you have back pain or not.

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